Traffic jams and desperation at the border as Russians flee Putin's 'partial mobilization' | CNN (2023)

CNN

Vladimir Putin’s “partial mobilization” of citizens for his war in Ukraine has already set in motion sweeping changes for many Russians, as drafted men bid their families emotional goodbyes, while others attempt to flee, scrambling to make it across land border crossings or buy air tickets out.

For many of those leaving, the reason is the same: to avoid being drafted into Putin’s brutal and faltering assault on neighboring Ukraine. But the circumstances surrounding their decisions – and the difficulties of leaving home – are deeply personal to each.

For Ivan, a man who said he’s an officer in Russia’s reserves and left his country for Belarus on Thursday, the motivation was clear: “I don’t support what’s going on, so I just decided that I had to leave right away,” he told CNN.

“I felt like the doors are closing and if I didn’t leave immediately, I might not be able to leave later,” Ivan said, adding he was thinking of a close friend back home with two little children who, unlike him, was unable to pack up and go.

Alexey, a 29-year-old who arrived in Georgia from Russia via bus on Thursday, told CNN the decision was due in part to his roots.

“(Half of) my family is Ukrainian … I am not in reserves now, for this wave of mobilization, but I think if this goes on, all the men will be qualified,” he said.

Traffic jams and desperation at the border as Russians flee Putin's 'partial mobilization' | CNN (1)
(Video) Videos show Russian citizens stuck in traffic trying to flee

Cars queue to enter the Brusnichnoye checkpoint on the Russian-Finnish border in the Leningrad Region of Russia on September 22.

Putin declared on Wednesday that 300,000 reservists would be drafted, as Moscow seeks to replenish depleted forces after a successful counter-offensive from Kyiv this month. The move is set to change the scope of Russia’s invasion from an offensive fought largely by volunteers to one that embroils a larger swath of its population.

The announcement unleashed a scramble for some Russians, with social media chatter on platforms like Telegram exploding with people frantically trying to figure out how to get seats in vehicles headed to the borders, with some even discussing going on bicycle.

Long lines of traffic formed at land border crossings into several countries, according to video footage. Images on Kazakh media websites appeared to show vehicles backed up near the Russia-Kazakhstan border. In one, posted by Kazakh media outlet Tengri News, a person can be heard saying their vehicle has been “at a standstill for 10 hours” in Russia’s Saratov region, as they try to make their way to Kazakhstan.

“Endless cars. Everyone is running. Everyone is on the run from Russia,” the person in the video can be heard saying. CNN cannot independently verify the videos.

At the arrivals hall of Istanbul Airport on Friday, 18-year-old student Daniel told CNN of his plans to wait it out in Turkey. He flew into Turkey on Friday for what was meant to be a pre-booked holiday, but since the mobilization announcement, he has had to contend with a new life in the country.

“We are young, we can learn and build a new life. We want to be useful. For now it is vacation and wait,” he said about his plans with his girlfriend. “Since I am a student, technically I am not mobilized, but it can change. And we know our government lies to us. We are just meat for them,” Daniel said.

Software engineer Roman told CNN that he hastily bought his ticket to Turkey minutes after Putin’s mobilization speech. He plans on going to Portugal, where he has been granted a visa.

“War is terrible. I am strongly against this war. Everyone I know is against it. My friends, my family, nobody wants this war. Only politics want this war,” he said, adding that his wife has had to stay in Russia as she does not have a Portuguese visa.

(Video) Russians queue for miles at border crossings after Putin's mobilization announcement

“The only plan is to survive. I’m just scared,” he added.

Another Russian citizen, who declined to be named, described the war as useless and cruel, “it should never have started in the first place. And I’m sorry for the Ukrainians – I sympathize with them.” The divorcee will fly on Saturday to Israel without his two children, who are still in Russia.

“I’m hoping to bring them to me when I am settled,” he said. “I will try to move them out because Russia is certainly not the place for them.”

On Thursday, Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee released a statement saying the borders were “under special control” but operating normally amid an “increase in the number of foreign citizens” entering the country. The number of passenger vehicles entering Kazakhstan from Russia had increased 20% since September 21, the country’s State Revenue Committee said in a separate statement.

On Finland’s eastern border with Russia, traffic intensified overnight on Thursday, according to the Finnish border guard. Earlier that day, Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin told Parliament her government was ready to take action to put “an end” to Russian tourism and transit through Finland, according to Finnish public broadcaster Yle.

Many of those leaving appeared to be men. Women are not part of Russia’s conscription.

Travel agency websites also showed a dramatic increase in the demand for flights to places where Russians do not need a visa. Flight sale websites indicate direct flights to such countries sold out through Friday at least, while anecdotal reports indicated people were having trouble finding ways to leave far past that time frame.

At least two Russians who left the country, one via land and one via air, told CNN that departing men were being questioned by Russian authorities, with queries including whether they had had military training and others about Russia and Ukraine.

“It was like a regular passport control, but every man at the queue was stopped and asked additional questions. They took a bunch of us to a room and asked questions mainly about (our) military (training),” Vadim, a Russian who arrived in Georgia via air, told CNN.

Mobilization begins

Inside Russia’s borders the mobilization that some were aiming to escape appeared to already be underway.

(Video) Russians flee and protest after Putin's partial mobilization

Social media videos showed the first phase of the partial mobilization in several Russian regions, especially in the Caucasus and the Far East, far from Russia’s wealthy metropolitan areas.

In the Russian Far East city of Neryungi, families said goodbye to a large group of men, as they boarded buses, as seen in footage posted in a community video channel. Many people are visibly emotional in the video, including a woman crying and hugging her husband goodbye, while he reaches for his daughter’s hand from the bus window.

Another shows a group of about 100 newly mobilized soldiers waiting at Magadan Airport in the Russian Far East, next to a transport aircraft. Telegram videos showed another mobilized group of men awaiting transport, purportedly in Amginskiy Uliss in the region of Yakutiya, a vast Siberian territory.

Much nearer the Ukrainian border, a crowd was gathered near the city of Belgorod to see off a batch of newly mobilized men. As they get on a bus, a boy shouts out “Bye, Daddy!” and starts crying. CNN has not been able to independently verify the videos.

In other scenes circulating on social media, tensions around the conscription ran high.

In Dagestan in the Caucasus, a furious argument broke out at one enlistment office, according to one video. A woman said her son had been fighting since February. Told by a man that she should not have sent him, she replied: “Your grandfather fought so that you could live,” to which the man responded: “Back then it was war, right now it is politics.”

(Video) Russia: Panic, protests follow Putin's call for 'partial mobilization' | DW News

Defiance and detention

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday called on Russians to protest against the partial military mobilization.

Thousands of Russian soldiers “died in this war in six months. Tens of thousands are wounded and maimed. Want more? No? Then protest. Fight back. Run away. Or surrender to Ukrainian captivity. These are options for you to survive,” Zelensky said in his daily video address to his country.

Addressing anti-war protests that broke out across Russia on Wednesday, the Ukrainian leader said: “(Russian people) understand that they have been cheated.”

But dissent is typically swiftly crushed in Russia and authorities have placed further constraints on free speech following the invasion of Ukraine.

Police swiftly cracked down on Wednesday’s demonstrations, which were mostly small-scale protests. More than 1,300 people were detained by authorities in at least 38 cities, according to independent monitoring group OVD-Info.

Some of those protesters were immediately drafted into the military following their arrests, according to the group’s spokeswoman Maria Kuznetsova, who told CNN by phone on Wednesday that at at least four police stations in Moscow some of the arrested protesters were being conscripted.

Earlier this week, Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, amended the law on military service, setting the jail term to up to 15 years for violation of military service duties – such as desertion and evasion from service, according to state news agency TASS.

Ivan, the reservist who spoke to CNN after leaving the country this week, described the feeling of hopelessness felt by many in Russia in the wake of recent events.

“It feels bad because a lot of my friends, a lot of people don’t support the war and they feel threatened by what is going on, and there is no democratic way to really stop this, to even declare your protest,” he said.

CNN’s Gul Tuysuz, Yulia Kesaieva, Lauren Kent, Sugam Pokharel, and Anastasia Graham Yooll contributed to this report.

(Video) Drone video shows massive traffic jam as Russians flee the country

FAQs

What is the mobilization order in Russia? ›

Citizens to be mobilized

According to Shoigu, 300,000 reservists are planned to be mobilized, called from a pool of 25 million "potential fighters." Conscripts would be sent for training or retraining, after which they would be sent to Ukraine. Reservists may be banned from leaving Russia after receiving a summons.

Can Russian citizens leave Russia now? ›

It is currently still possible to leave Russia by crossing the border into Finland, Estonia or Latvia in your own car. Check the Russian exit rules and the entry rules of your country of destination carefully before departure. Take into account that it may get very busy at border crossings if the situation gets worse.

How many Russians are fleeing Russia? ›

An upper estimate is for 700,000 Russians to have fled conscription since it was announced. Many went to Kazakhstan, Serbia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Georgia, and Finland.

When did Russia mobilize their army? ›

However, Russia had yielded French support and feared that a failure to defend Serbia would lead to the loss of Russian credibility, constituting a major political defeat in its goal of controlling the Balkans. Tsar Nicholas II mobilized Russian forces on 30 July 1914 to threaten Austria-Hungary if it invaded Serbia.

What does mobilization mean in a war? ›

Mobilization is the act of assembling and readying military troops and supplies for war. The word mobilization was first used in a military context in the 1850s to describe the preparation of the Prussian Army.

What is the means of Mobilisation? ›

Meaning of mobilization in English

the act of preparing to fight, especially in a war: The mobilization of troops is to control the access along our border. The President appeared on national television and ordered the mobilization of reservists. See.

Can Russian citizens travel to USA now? ›

Russian citizens who wish to travel to the US for business or tourism purposes must apply for a US B1/B2 Visa. While the application process cannot be 100% online, iVisa can help you obtain the confirmation page you are required to have for your interview at the embassy, and they can do that offline or online.

Are Americans still traveling to Russia? ›

Russia - Level 4: Do Not Travel.

Are Americans safe in Russia? ›

Russia - AVOID ALL TRAVEL

Avoid all travel to Russia due to the impacts of the armed conflict with Ukraine, including partial military mobilization, restrictions on financial transactions and increasingly limited flight options. If you are in Russia, you should leave while commercial means are still available.

What country has the most Russian immigrants? ›

Statistics
CountryEthnic Russians
United States3,100,000
Germany1,213,000
Brazil1,800,000
Israel1,000,000
26 more rows

Can Russians still go on holiday? ›

But, nowadays Russian tourists still have a choice. They can go on vacation to Turkey, Egypt, the Caribbean, North Africa, Southeast Asia, as well as Belarus, Armenia and Abkhazia.

What companies left Russia? ›

McKinsey & Company said it would not take on any new work in Russia, would stop work for state-owned entities and “will no longer serve any government entity in Russia.” The Big Four accounting firms — Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC — are pulling out of the country.

How many troops does NATO have? ›

In 2022, the United States had the largest number of military personnel out of all North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries, with 1.35 million troops.
...
Number of military personnel in NATO countries in 2022 (in 1,000s)
CharacteristicNumber of military personnel in thousands
--
12 more rows
6 days ago

What does mobilization mean in military? ›

mobilization, in war or national defense, organization of the armed forces of a nation for active military service in time of war or other national emergency. In its full scope, mobilization includes the organization of all resources of a nation for support of the military effort. mobilization. Key People: James F.

How many active soldiers does Russia have? ›

Vooruzhonnije Síly Rossíyskoj Federátsii), commonly known as the Russian Armed Forces, are the military forces of Russia. They comprise the world's fifth-largest military in terms of active-duty personnel, with at least 2 million reserve personnel.
...
Russian Armed Forces.
Armed Forces of the Russian Federation
Current form7 May 1992
25 more rows

What is an example of mobilization? ›

When a government gets its troops prepared for battle, that's mobilization. It's also mobilization when you organize your family to throw a surprise party for your sister. Preparing a group of people so they're ready to act at a moment's notice is what mobilization is all about.

Why is mobilizing so important? ›

Increased mobility is beneficial in muscle strengthening and joint flexibility. A decrease in pressure ulcers and deep vein thrombosis, as well as less falls due to balance, were also found. There is also evidence that mobilization increases a positive sense of well-being.

What is the difference between deployment and mobilization? ›

Deployment is not restricted to combat; units can be deployed for other reasons such as humanitarian aid, evacuation of U.S. citizens, restoration of peace, or increased security. Mobilization is when an individual or unit is sent somewhere within the continental U.S. or its territories.

What does it mean to mobilize people? ›

transitive verb/intransitive verb. If you mobilize support or mobilize people to do something, you succeed in encouraging people to take action, especially political action. If people mobilize, they prepare to take action.

How do you mobilize a community? ›

Key Steps for Effective Community Mobilization
  1. Identify and Access Communities.
  2. Select and Train Community Spokespeople and Mobilizers.
  3. Establish a Formal Structure for Effective Information Flow.
  4. Identify and Implement Community Mobilization Activities.

How long can a Russian citizen stay in the US? ›

In accordance with national laws, documentary evidence allowing uninterrupted stay in United States for more than 90 days may be a Student or Work visa, work permit, permanent residency (Green Card).

How many Russians are there in the United States? ›

Russian-born population
YearNumber
2016397,236
2017403,670
2018391,094
2019391,641
6 more rows

Is it safe to visit Russia? ›

Do not travel to Russia due to the security environment and the impacts of the military conflict with Ukraine. There are limited transportation options, restrictions on financial transactions and possible shortages of essential products and services.

Are U.S. people friendly? ›

That being said, Americans are, on the whole, very friendly people and happy to help when asked. (Southerners have a well-earned reputation as the most hospitable people in the country, and will often go out of their way to make a foreigner feel more at home.)

How long does it take to get a tourist visa to Russia from USA? ›

It takes between 4 working days and 6 weeks to get your Russian visa depending upon the type that you need. The cost also varies according to the visa's type and how quickly you need it.

What countries does Russia allow dual citizenship with? ›

Russian dual citizenship is allowed only if Russia has reached an agreement with that country, and only two countries, namely Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, are involved. Otherwise, citizens who want to obtain citizenship in Russia are forced to renounce the original citizenship.

Is Russia a nice place to live? ›

Locals in Russia are actually warm, friendly and helpful people. Whether new arrivals enjoy nature or prefer the perks of city living, Russia has a lot to offer. There are lots of social activities and sports facilities in Russia, especially in big cities.

Is USA safe country? ›

If you look at some of the fears, from gun violence and police brutality to environmental dangers (like snowstorms, hurricanes and earthquakes) it can seem a little bit apocalyptic. But, in general, the USA is a safe country to visit.

Can a US citizen drive in Russia? ›

Under Russian law (Russian Government Order #1396 of 12/15/1999), U.S. citizens bearing Russian visas may use a valid U.S. driver's license to drive a car in Russia provided that a certified Russian translation of it is available.

Where do most Russians live in USA? ›

New York leads the nation in the number of Russian Americans. About 1.6 Million reside in New York Tri-State area. About 600,000 reside in the City of New York representing 8% of the population. Numbers exceed those of other leading ethnic groups like Chinese (760,000) and Dominican (620,000).

What type of religion is Russia? ›

The majority of believers belong to the Orthodox Christian denomination. Russia adopted Christianity under Prince Vladimir of Kiev in 988, in a ceremony patterned on Byzantine rites. Russia's baptism laid the foundations for the rise of the Russian Orthodox Church.

What percentage of Ukraine is Russian? ›

However, while they are Russian speakers, most identify themselves as Ukrainian. Indeed, in Donetsk ethnic Ukrainians make up 56.9 %, and ethnic Russians 38.2 % of the population.

Where can I go on holiday without Russians? ›

In addition to Turkey, there are other countries offering vacations without Russians. The Spanish chain RIU Hotels & Resorts, which has 90 hotels in 20 countries (including the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Mexico and the Dominican Republic), also refused to serve Russians.

Can Russian citizens travel freely abroad? ›

For nearly 30 years, Russian citizens have had the freedom to travel internationally without government permission, a departure from strict Soviet-era policies lifted in the early 1990s.

Where Can Russians fly to now? ›

Latest Travel Advisory and Alerts

Direct flights are currently operating from Moscow and other major Russian cities to Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Thailand, India, and other destinations.

Is McDonald's still operating in Russia? ›

That's why McDonald's has made the decision to completely exit the Russian market. For the first time in our history, we are “de-Arching” a major market and selling our portfolio of McDonald's restaurants. They will no longer carry the McDonald's name or serve our menu. The Golden Arches will shine no more in Russia.

What American companies still do business in Russia? ›

The major companies still doing business in Russia include Burger King, Domino's, Subway, Citi and Marriott, according to the Yale School of Management. Burger King, Subway and Domino's have hundreds of independent franchise locations inside Russia.

Is Nestle still in Russia? ›

Swiss food giant Nestle is pulling its popular brands out of Russia but will still sell essential foods.

Who is stronger NATO or Russia? ›

The combined total of Nato military personnel currently exceeds 5.4 million – around four times as many as Russia, according to Statista. It has about five times as many aircraft, four times as many armoured vehicles and three times as many military ships.

Who is number 1 army in the world? ›

The United States has the most powerful military force in the world, according to a rating of the world's greatest militaries. This post will give you a full list of the world's top ten armies as of 2022.

Who has the largest army in the world? ›

According to Statista, the largest military based on active personnel is China. China has 2 million active military personnel as of 2022. The top 10 largest militaries based on active personnel: China - 2,000,000.

How many troops can the US mobilize? ›

Total Force Mobilization

For the past 14 years, most mobilization requirements were handled by the president's partial mobilization authority, which can activate up to 1,000,000 members of the Army Reserve for a period not to exceed 24 consecutive months.

How often do US army Reserves get deployed? ›

If you get deployed once in six years, that would be typical, but it could be more than that.” For those who do wind up deployed, the Reserve mission may be in a support function, but some military specialties are described as “more combat oriented” including Security Forces.

What is total mobilization in war? ›

Total Mobilization occurs when the President and the Congress activate the entire Armed Forces, as well as all national resources to meet the requirements of war or other national emergencies involving an external threat to the national security.

How much do Russian soldiers get paid? ›

The minimum monthly wage on offer is 160,000 roubles ($2,700), which is almost three times the national average.

Which country has the best military? ›

With military bases in many parts of the world, the US armed forces remain the most powerful of any on the globe.

How many tanks has Russia lost Ukraine? ›

The same independent verification exists for most of the other Ukrainian claims. Recently, the Pentagon acknowledged that the Russian military has lost thousands of combat vehicles of all types, including over 1,000 tanks, and dozens of fighter jets and helicopters.

What is a Mobilisation order? ›

Mobilisation. Reservists will be sent a 'call-out notice' if they're needed for full-time service. This is known as 'mobilisation'. You must answer your call-out notice - the letter will tell you what to do. In most cases, reservists get 28 days' notice, but they could get less if they're needed urgently.

What is Ukraine Mobilisation? ›

In May 2022, the Verkhovna Rada extended martial law and mobilization in Ukraine for 90 days at once, until 23 August. On 22 June 2022, a bill was submitted to the Verkhovna Rada prohibiting men of military age from traveling abroad during martial law.

Is military service mandatory in Russia? ›

Conscription in Russia (Russian: всеобщая воинская обязанность, romanized: vseobshchaya voinskaya obyazannost, translated as "universal military obligation" or "liability for military service") is a 12-month draft, which is mandatory for all male citizens ages 18–27, with a number of exceptions.

How many troops has Russia lost Ukraine war? ›

U.S. officials have said that Russia has lost between 60,000 and 80,000 troops in its misguided war on Ukraine. A soldier watches Ukrainian artillerymen fire an M109 tracked self-propelled howitzer at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, May 12, 2022.

What is an example of mobilization? ›

When a government gets its troops prepared for battle, that's mobilization. It's also mobilization when you organize your family to throw a surprise party for your sister. Preparing a group of people so they're ready to act at a moment's notice is what mobilization is all about.

What does it mean for a country to mobilize? ›

mobilization, in war or national defense, organization of the armed forces of a nation for active military service in time of war or other national emergency. In its full scope, mobilization includes the organization of all resources of a nation for support of the military effort.

What is the difference between mobilisation and mobilization? ›

Mobilization and mobilisation are both English terms. In the United States, there is a preference for "mobilization" over "mobilisation" (98 to 2). In the United Kingdom, there is a 65 to 35 preference for "mobilisation" over "mobilization".

How many men are mobilized in Ukraine? ›

Armed Forces of Ukraine
Ukrainian Armed Forces
Reaching military age annually470,406 (2021)
Active personnel196,600 (2022)
Reserve personnel900,000 (2022)
Deployed personnel40,114 (2021)
25 more rows

How many people can Russia draft? ›

Reports suggest the draft could be much wider—up to 1 million people—though the relevant clause was redacted from Putin's mobilization order and the Kremlin rejects the claim as a “lie.” In theory, Russian officials claim they have a pool of 25 million reservists they can call upon.

Is Ukraine a drafting soldier? ›

Ukraine has always had military conscription. It's a legacy of the Soviet Union.

How much do Russian soldiers get paid? ›

The minimum monthly wage on offer is 160,000 roubles ($2,700), which is almost three times the national average.

Who is exempt from military service in Russia? ›

According to current laws, a citizen is exempt from conscription (draft) if such citizen has previously completed military or alternative civilian service or if the medical board has found such citizen unfit for military service (or fit for limited service).

Does China have mandatory military service? ›

Technically, military service with the PLA is obligatory for all Chinese citizens. In practice, mandatory military service has not been implemented since 1949 as the People's Liberation Army has been able to recruit sufficient numbers voluntarily. All 18-year-old males have to register themselves with the government ...

How many tanks has Ukraine destroyed? ›

Ukraine Has Destroyed 2,000 Russian Tanks, 254 Aircraft & 48,700 Soldiers.

How many tanks has Russia lost in Ukraine so far? ›

4,724 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles destroyed. 3,587 vehicles and fuel tanks. 2,216 tanks. 1,323 artillery pieces.

How many soldiers has Ukraine lost? ›

Total deaths
BreakdownFatalitiesTime period
TOTAL14,200–14,400 killed6 April 2014 – 31 December 2021
Civilians3,404 killed (306 foreign)6 April 2014 – 31 December 2021
ZSU, NGU, SBGS and volunteer forces4,400 killed6 April 2014 – 31 December 2021
4,641 killed6 April 2014 – 23 February 2022
2 more rows

Videos

1. Russians flee country in panic after Putin orders new military mobilization | ABC7
(ABC7)
2. Russians flee country as Putin calls up reservists
(CBS Evening News)
3. Russians flee their country to avoid conscription
(CNN)
4. Satellite images show 10-mile line of cars fleeing Russia
(CNN)
5. Russian families' tearful goodbyes as Putin mobilises reservists to Ukraine
(The Telegraph)
6. Russia admits errors made in mobilization | DW News
(DW News)
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